Above: A female Platanista gangetica minor breaks the surface of the Beas (Photo by Arati Kumar Rao)
India’s few remaining Indus river dolphins are confined to one short, beautiful stretch of the Beas. They have a fighting chance at survival only if we ensure a healthy river
Guest Blog by Arati Kumar Rao
A dark shape cleaves the Beas river, leaving a long wake in its trail. From the way it moves, it is neither a human, nor fish, nor even a river dolphin. The shape swims strongly, shrugging off the strong current. It holds its line and makes straight for a sandbar, hauling itself up on a buff-coloured spit.
A black dog, probably feral. It shakes itself free of water and, running across the sand, begins tugging at the beached carcass of a cow. Another bigger dog appears out of nowhere, and the two begin to snarl and gorge, yanking and tearing flesh off the arcing ribs.
River sandbars contain multitudes. I was upstream of Harike, the largest wetland in north India. The critically endangered gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), the fish-eating, long-snouted crocodilian, of which no more than a few hundred survive in the world, bask and nest on these sandbars. Freshwater turtles like the red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur kachuga) and the Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle (Chitra indica), among the most endangered of freshwater species, use sand islands extensively to breed and to bask. Hundreds of thousands of birds — some transient visitors from China and Siberia and Central Asia wintering here, some resident — forage, nest, breed, raise chicks. Many of these creatures have this in common – they are all threatened, to greater or lesser degree.
The sight of predatory, feral dogs in this delicate ecosystem comes with chilling implications. Continue reading “Beas Dolphins: A Flash Of Fin, A Glimmer Of Hope”